Blog

The official photo blog of J. David Buerk Photography.

Eero Saarinen's Dulles Airport Main Terminal

 01

01

This January I was commissioned by Washington Dulles International Airport's Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to photograph Eero Saarinen's historic Main Terminal building.  When MWAA employees retire, they are presented with a commemorative photograph of the Airport's Main Terminal, normally signed by other employees who worked closely with them, giving support and leaving their good wishes.  Even I received one when my 7 years with the Airports Authority came to a close.

This photo is, however, dark, out of date, and no longer known where the negative is for reproduction.  The Airport wanted an updated version; a portrait of the historic Airport at its 50 year anniversary.  One that is bright and shows how the Airport has flourished.  It's a pretty picture; I like it a lot!... but it's reached its time, and I was tasked with creating a suitable replacement.  Quite an honor!!!

The photograph was taken from an unusual angle not often seen; most photos of the Terminal are shot from the West, given the ease of access to Daily Garage 2.  The retirement photograph is shot from the East, which requires access to the Signature Flight Support hangar's upper rooftop - the decision to shoot from this same angle was easy, as it is so unique.  Weather was a constant factor, and it took 3 attempted shooting days to get the final image.  Below are some of the shots I took while on the rooftop, waiting for the perfect lighting, chronologically from my first attempts to the final image.

 02

02

It was very strange seeing an aircraft depart for Germany that I know I've been aboard, and was present for its very first landing at Dulles.

 03

03

Finally I had the shot I was looking for; dramatic sky, and a brightly lit Terminal.  The lighting on the Terminal wasn't quite warmed up yet, so the final image actually is a composite of two exposures to bring the dynamic range back to what was visible at shooting.  I had been focusing on wider shots since that was what the previous photo had been, but I quickly noticed that a zoomed view offered greater perspective and overal character to the image.  My gut was right, and the Airport unanimously chose my final shot of the Terminal; zoomed in to 140mm, with vibrant streaking across the sky.

The final photo is available for print purchase on my client site here.

 04

04

The Airport LOVED it.  Absolutely LOVED it.  I was shocked how much; I actually got hugged when they saw it, and it quickly got around to other offices - the Finance Department will actually be using the image as the cover for Dulles' latest Annual Report, along with several other of my images inside.  The photo was an exercise in Photoshop as well, as there were two large utility trucks parked in front of the Terminal that proved challenging to remove; the end result is quite stunning!

Finally, as I turned to leave, my gear already packed in my bag, I saw the new full Moon, orange on the horizon as it had just risen as the sun set; I quickly set my gear back up and got a moon shot before retiring from the Signature Flight Support rooftop, a new portrait of Dulles saved to my camera's CF card.

 05

05